Recent years, change becomes the most important strategic tools used by many organizations to compete on the market and remain profitable. In a stable world, change management is a nonissue: organizations carefully develop a plan and then stick to it. But in a chaotic world, organizations must come to grips with the inevitability of change and innovations adopted by other companies. A dominant feature of life today is the constant shifting of players in organizations. Innovations allow companies to compete on the global scale and foreshadow market changes and fluctuations.
Causes of Innovation and Change
Innovations and changes help organizations function effectively in a chaotic world. Some do more than change organization charts and engage in radical changes to their basic business processes, an effort that carries the exotic name of business process reengineering. A significant problem with this juggling of players is the shifting of priorities it engenders (Collins and Porras 71). Every time managers take over a new position, they view it as their prerogative to change the rules. Although this outlook is understandable, it leads to the situation where previous commitments are abandoned each time a new manager takes over a position.
In a competitive world, the actions of competitors can have large impacts on how organizations do their work. If a competitor offers an attractive new product or service, organizations may find themselves dropping whatever they are working on to develop a competing product or service (Daft 23). The sudden shift of work priorities produced by this reactive strategy is likely to disrupt ongoing work. Resources dedicated to a long-term project may be siphoned away to support short-term response. Project staff interview customers to identify their needs and wants. They then try to determine whether these needs and wants can be satisfied in view of budget, schedule, and technical constraints. They also review how these needs and wants are being addressed by current procedures.
Even as the development process proceeds in a disciplined way, change will occur, and configuration management must be prepared to deal with it. For example, during the general design stage, it may become obvious that some of the specifications defined earlier are not realistic and must be modified (Collins and Porras 78). Or during the building stage, the project team may find that an important component needed in the emerging deliverable is no longer produced and that a substitute must be found. Screening of change requests focuses on determining which change requests have merit and which do not. The process generally begins when someone (for example, a customer, a manager, or a member of the technical staff) submits a change request to the project manager on a form (Collins and Porras 73).
Key Elements of Organizational Change
The most populate model of change management is Lewin’s three stage model: unfreezing, changing and re-freezing. One way to manage change is to harness its momentum and direct it in desired directions (Collins and Porras 79). Another possible method of change is proposed by Shaw. He identifies change as complex and also evolutionary. As projects evolve, managers can count on customers, managers, and technical staff to alter their views of what they need and want.
This is a natural occurrence referred to as the learning effect. At the earliest stages of a project, people’s vision of the deliverable is vague, and requirements are largely abstractions. Proponents of rapid prototyping recognize that a major problem project staff have in specifying requirements is that the customers they attempt to serve don’t know their needs or wants (Collins and Porras 81). Furthermore, customers are incapable of determining whether the requirements presented to them by project staff early in the project life cycle truly represent their interests because at this stage these interests are rather abstract and difficult to visualize.
Consequently, as a deliverable gradually emerges and they see what they are actually getting, they begin demanding changes to the requirements. In order to cope with change, organizations and individuals must develop a pro-change mind-set. They must appreciate the inevitability of change and see it as something positive, something that offers them opportunities for growth. This is not easy to do because organizations and people naturally resist change. Organizations and individuals must learn how and when to “go with the flow.” There are times when resistance to change can break them, just as a dry twig can be easily snapped with little pressure (Collins and Porras 71).
Occasionally, it is appropriate to use change’s own momentum to direct it into desired channels. A promising approach to going with the flow is rapid prototyping. Just as there are times when it is appropriate to go with the flow, there are also times when some degree of resistance to change is proper. Not all change is equally important or necessary. In some cases, it may be needed for survival. In others, it may add no value and may be unnecessarily disruptive and destructive. Configuration management, a dominant change management discipline employed heavily in technical organizations, is a methodology that puts the brakes on change (Collins and Porras 45).
The main strategies which help to introduce change are re-education and rational-empirical strategy based on persuasion, power-cohesive strategy and action-centered strategy. To make the educational experience meaningful in the context of change today, managers should be exposed to current management thinking and trends, which offer a perspective on the role of managers that is radically different from the traditional approach. They should see that empowerment of the workforce is not a do-good exercise but rather a requirement that must be implemented if an organization wants to remain competitive (Jansen 53).
They should understand that their role is no longer to command but rather to support their staff to do the best job possible. Although education can be used to raise people’s consciousness about the benefits of change, training is required to provide them with the skills to implement it. For example, experience shows that a good way to overcome the resistance of peasants to the mechanization of agriculture is to train them to use tractors and combines. Once they have firsthand experience in using machinery, they become converts. Suddenly, those who resisted change become its foremost proponents (Podlesnik and Chase 303).
Rational-empirical strategy implies that individual will follow change because of self-interest and desire to improve their performance. Such change has dramatic implications for conducting project work. In an era when the life expectancy of a new technology is extremely short, any project that has a time horizon greater than six months must grapple with changing technology (Schien, 99). Changing macroeconomic forces can create enormous pressure for change on projects.
Power-cohesive strategy is based on authority and power influence. Actions-centered is based on problem-solving and decision-making methods. As the deliverable becomes more tangible and people see what they will actually get, they ask for change. If they like what they see, they often ask for enhancements even before the deliverable is complete (Schien, 82).
Resistance to Change
Resistance to change is a typical problem in many organizations. the most common factors which force people resist change are security in the past, fear of unknown, fear of dismissal and low compensation. Attempts to go against the powerful current lead to frustration and failure. Success is based on going with the flow in a controlled manner (Sherman and Garland 52). If they like what they see, they may very well request enhancements to the evolving deliverable.
Most humans are not great supporters of change. They tend to resist it, as individuals and at the group level. Beyond psychological factors, there are external forces that encourage people to stick with the status quo. This view holds that if the current way of doing things is functioning smoothly, managers should not tamper with it (Sherman and Garland 52). At best, fixes are unnecessary; at worst, they may create more problems than they resolve. Another force resisting change stems from the investments employees have made to maintain the status quo.
Still another force resisting change is employees’ reluctance to abandon formulas that have served organizations well in the past. The problem traditionalists face in revolutionary times is that they are crushed beneath the tidal wave of change. Those resisting it are overwhelmed by the change agents (Schien, 55). The change agents themselves derive much of their energy from the fact that they do not have a stake in the past. It has been noted many times that innovation within an industry often comes from the outside.
The most vigorous change agents are the desperados, those who are in bad shape and have little or nothing to lose. For organizations to survive and thrive in these turbulent times, they must develop a pro-change mind-set. They must alter their cultures so that change is seen as something desirable, filled with opportunity. Given people’s natural resistance to change, the development of a pro-change mind-set is not easily achieved (Schien, 55).
In sum, organization’s success and competitive position of the market depends upon successful change management and innovative solutions introduced by organizations. Effective change management requires that staff be able to distinguish between good and detrimental change. It also demands that project staff be prepared to deal with change in the most effective manner possible. Strategies for dealing with change basically fall into two categories. One is to go with the flow. This approach recognizes that change can be constructive. It is particularly effective in dealing with high-flux situations, such as defining customer needs and requirements.
- Collins, J., Porras, J. I. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. Collins, 2004.
- Daft, R. L. Organizational Theory and Design. 9th Edition. South-Western College Pub; 8 edition, 2003.
- Jansen, K. J. The Emerging Dynamics of Change: Resistance, Readiness, and Momentum. Human Resource Planning, 23, (2000): 53-55.
- Podlesnik, Ch., Chase, Ph. N. Sensitivity and Strength: Effects of Instructions on Resistance to Change. The Psychological Record, 56, (2006): 303.
- Schien, E. H. Organizational Culture and Leadership. Jossey-Bass, 1996.
- Sherman, W. S., Garland, G. E. Where to Bury the Survivors? Exploring Possible Ex Post Effects of Resistance to Change. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 72, (2007); 52.